10 things I’ve learned in the first year of working for myself

Twelve months ago, I gave up the security of working for a large company to step out to work for myself. At the time, some friends told me I was brave to give up a steady job in tough times. But I didn’t feel brave. I felt nervous. I knew I was ready for a new adventure but had no idea what might happen next. Work was changing from something structured into something that – succeed or fail – was my entire responsibility.

Over the past twelve months, I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with amazing people who spark my brain, inspire me to create new stuff and bring out the best in me.

I’ve worked on BAFTA-nominated apps, met brilliant new people, talked at conferences, helped teenagers get excited about technology, worried about whether I was doing the right thing, had highs and lows and in the process learned many new things.

I’ve thought about what I wish I’d known 12 months ago, when I was about to step into a new adventure. So here are ten things I’ve learned in my first year.

1. Talk to friends. Share concerns with people you trust, who can give you a different perspective. Talk to friends already in business. It helps to know you’re not alone.

2. Ask stupid questions. You’ll have lots of them when starting a new business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with stuff you think you should already know.

3. Serendipity is really important. Make time to meet new people. Everyone you meet is important. Listen to what they say. Connect them up with others – they will create amazing stuff together.

4. You’ll experience more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Those nagging worries? Ten times worse when you’re self employed. The flip-side? The highs are much, much better than anything before. The fear never goes away, but you learn to live with it and it can push you on to newer and better things if you let it.

5. Your perception of time will change. I used to look forward to Fridays and had that feeling of mild doom on Sunday evenings. Now working for myself has shifted my perception of what weekdays and weekends mean. It means days are no longer labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They just are. Work happens when it needs to, and play isn’t confined to weekends.

6. Play more. Actively search out ways to experience new stuff and play more. It’ll refuel your brain and give new perspectives on stuff.

7. Don’t underestimate your worth. Negotiating is not comfortable, but it really is in no-one’s interests – your clients’ or your own – to drop your price too low.

8. Make time for the stuff you really want to do. Last year I got involved with a project called TeenTech. It’s been hugely enjoyable, and has given me new perspectives. Would I have had chance to do this while I was in full time employment? Probably not.

9. Share what you learn. Put yourself forward to speak at conferences. You have to become good at self publicity – something I find uncomfortable. However, I’m working on it, because it’s led to so many other positives in the past year – see serendipity (point 3) and play more (point 6).

10. Try out new things. Don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable. Trust your instincts and go with it – and see what happens when you do.

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